When I started toying with the idea of a short story collection I think I did it mostly to use the time I had from the Whispers of the Graces, from which I needed to take a break so I can gain perspective.
Little did I know that I will click publish in the eve of my birthday, keeping a promise I made to myself a long time ago, when I said I will be published by the time I am 40. (yes, yes, the anthology does not count here, or the other collaborations).
I wanted to have a collection of shorts, available for reading in one sitting. I put the time required from the day, hoping it would be easier to arrange the reading time accordingly.
Well, now things get serious. We talked about Time, Communities, Travelling and Inspiration. All in the light of being creative and living that creative and authentic life that most of us strive for. Have been struggling with this month’s theme, as I looked at the list of topics I wanted to talk about for a while, feeling like none of them would suffice. Or be good enough. Because, oh, yes… I was feeling vulnerable.
Don’t we all?
Anyhow, here I am, end of the month, a fresh-brewed mug of tea with mint from the garden and linden from some friends’ garden, windows open, listening to the outside noise, happy it is all nature sounds, even in the midst of a bustling city. Evening, just ended the workday and am ready to relax, but not too relaxed as this essay is getting on my nerves, because if there is something I am good at is not showing any signs of vulnerability. It is always kept in check, packed under millions of other layers, ignored and frowned upon as we all do.
Since the beginning of this month, I have been part of a lovely project on Instagram (a wonderful project that I totally encourage you to try) organized/inspired by Juliane from @onebouquetperday. Juliane started it in 2013, so it has been going on for a while, but just this year I have found it. When I began, I thought it would do me a lot of good to go in the garden early in the morning and pick some flowers, as everything was in bloom and looked amazing, and to capture that moment of peace in a single photo. I also thought it would last for a week. Little did I know. I am going (strong) in my fourth week now, and totally loving it. It just adds that little something that was missing from my morning strolls at sunrise in the Garden of Eden, as I call this little sacred space we tend to.
How is this tied with the vulnerability you ask. Well, since you ask… Every project you do with other people makes you put yourself “out there”. You know, in the real world. And everything you create or do or think or say in such environment leaves you open for criticism, ironies, bullying, comparison, and all the other things that made you – an introvert- NOT put yourself out there.
Therefore, I encourage you to try to find a small project, anything that may bring you out of your shell, and damned be the fear that will try to silence you. Dare to be vulnerable. Show your heart to the world. Do not hide your gifts.
I still say it as a whisper that I am a writer. And still, try to disguise it and explain it and justify it by adding- well, I try… well, I’d like to think I am... and so on.
But allowing myself to be open to criticism and showing my soul to strangers has brought me more joy and happiness than bad vibes.
So, do it. Be vulnerable. Be authentic, tell people about your thoughts and wishes, about your ideas and allow your creative part to be free. Unleash that vibrant energy that fills your lungs and raises your spirit high to go “out there”. And accept your vulnerability. Care for it. Talk about it. Understand it. But do not let it control your life and do not live your life out of fear of what would people say or think. That is their problem, not yours. Yours is to be true to yourself, no matter what.
Go to group therapy. Talk about your soul and your fears. Play and allow yourself to be present. Tell people about your creative side. And about your desires and thoughts and feelings, especially.
Or write stories for your friends. Taking Neil Gaiman’s writing course in the past month (oh boy, what a treat!!) I have started to really enjoy writing short stories. So much that I decided to write 10 stories this year for 10 of my friends based on one photo of theirs from either Instagram, or blog or another social platform of their choice. Mind you, most of my friends have a gift for photography and I would like to thank deviantArt for meeting most of them back then. Oh, the glorious days of dev. I miss them sometimes. Now, back to writing and being vulnerable. I have already written two, started the third which will be posted really soon. You can read them in the Short Stories page of this website. They are different as the people I write for are different. They have a piece of soul from me, from them, and some mystical inspiration that was captured in that photo. Here’s yet another way of being vulnerable- telling your friends- Hey, I wrote a story about this picture of yours. Or even worse- hey, I think about writing a story about this picture of yours– worse because then you have informed them and they will have expectations. (yes, hard to live with that, I know. hahaha)
Try to be more present and do more “out there” for the people to see, allow yourself to be vulnerable and step by step you’ll learn how to do it, how to trust people and how to believe in yourself. There is this book that I’ve been reading for a while now, “Hardwiring Happiness” by Rick Hanson about experience-dependent-neuroplasticity (try to say that three times fast) which discusses retraining your brain to think and act positively by changing its wiring in response to experience, repeated stimuli, environmental cues, and learning. And how to learn from good and positive experiences. I believe that is an experiment worth doing with yourself. Learning how to see more good than bad and how to give more impact to good experiences.
This month’s post is also delivered in 1000 words in full, as promised.
Well, you see, when you ask someone what would they do if they had money, most people would say, without even thinking- Travel. We, as humans are born with such a desire to know, to see, to explore, that had us climb mountains, cross seas and oceans, dive deep and fly high in search of something to soothe our souls. In this search of ours to know, we have encountered billions of stories and seen millions of people living their lives and sometimes, we had even imagined ourselves to be a part of that local universe.
We travel to belong. To find our place in this (still) undiscovered world, and think of the different lives we would have lived if we were just been born someplace else. People from the valleys imagine living on top of the mountains. People from the mountains daydream of the sea and people from the tiny and remote villages wish to be in a bustling and vibrant metropolis.
It is perhaps that we are born on this planet, but we don’t quite belong here? Have you ever wondered why are you here? Well, that is a really good question.
Setting aside the travelling to say we’ve been there and saw that and taking pictures to prove it to our friends, there is the other kind of travelling, when we just go in search of ourselves.
And when during those quiet moments on a plane, train, car, boat, whatever means of transportation is available, including one’s own feet, you space out and imagine you are not a traveller, but a local.
Travelling means being part of the everyday lives of other people. We catch a glimpse on how other people live, how their lives are, what their normal looks like. And we marvel at it while sitting in a local pub and eat hot sweet potato chilly soup with warm bread and butter and sip a glass of white wine, listening to the locals’ chatter and their laughter. And our lives get richer, our imagination awakens and we find ourselves believing for a moment we are also one of them. That is the magic of travel. That fleeting moment of belonging.
We lose ourselves in forests, foreign alleys, take the less beaten path and see the new world with wonder eyes. We see new faces, new customs, we taste new dishes, new wines, we hear different languages and even different realities than ours, and we marvel some more. How is it that people are so different?
And then, you find yourself in a book shop reaching for the same dear-old-book as a stranger, and you both smile. Or you take the wrong coffee cup at the local brewery and after taking the first sip, you realize it is the same as you have ordered. Perhaps sweeter than you would have liked, but it is the same, universal latte. And you and the real owner, both smile, like before, sharing something. Or when the friendly dog of a local comes to you with the ball, pleading eyes and wiggling tail to invite you to play with him. And you throw the dirty ball a couple of times, while the owner of the dog watches you amused and bursts into laughter when the dog – at some point – seems confused. Or that moment when you are so caught up in your writing that you do not hear the stranger asking to share your table, but he sits down anyway, while you scribble furiously an idea that just came to you in your rugged notebook. And when you finally get out of your head you see the stranger next to you drawing with a passion in his own tiny notebook filled with colours and stains, always on the rush, always with a fear of not being able to capture the entire feeling. And you smile. Or when you go to a church to clear your head and rest your tired body, and the person greeting you says they’re having an organ concert that evening, would you be staying? It seems that there is an emeritus organ teacher playing, such an amazing feat for that small village of theirs. And you start nodding so furiously that they smile. And you listen to the wordless emotions, the grave and vibrant tones of the instrument, and you get transposed into another realm, without borders, without another language than the universal one of emotion. And at the end of it, you turn to leave and you see an old man coming down from the choir helped by a younger boy, and you get introduced to the emeritus professor, who moved out there from the big city after his retirement, bought an organ, repaired it and now is teaching the village children music, including his own nephew. And you know you still have tears in your eyes, and the old man puts his thin and parchment white fingers on your forearm and thanks you. And you think to yourself- shouldn’t be the other way around? Or when you find yourself giving directions to others, because they took you for a local, and you just happen to know the way as you just came from that place. And they thank you, smiling and pocketing their maps, and follow your instructions. Or when you are staying in line to get some ice cream and one local comes to ask the ice cream lady if they have brought some pear and rosemary or mulberry and thyme to take home, and you end up thanking him for the recommendation afterwards.
These are just tiny bits of things that may happen when one travels. Near or far.
Travelling does not need to be thousands of miles away, on the other side of the globe, in order to be called travel. The simple idea of removing yourself from the usual known and extremely beaten path is travel.
And then you may find tiny stories like the ones above.
Time is a weird concept. It can be measured in seconds, minutes, moments, memories, breaths, feelings, laughter, words, songs and books. The best spent time, however, is that one we do not measure. We do not feel passing.
Time well spent is the one that turns into memories.
Remember that time when…I wish I could turn back the time… Time waits for no man…
But it does exist. As in nature’s course, there is time for different activities. There is a time for everything.
It is important to recognize where we are in every moment while we are alive. And respect it. Perhaps for some is a time of growing or of planting, maybe sowing, for others is a time for dancing, laughing or perhaps breaking down. We must acknowledge that time and honour it.
We must not await time out.
Some of us have been waiting for something all our lives. For a sign, a certain day, a certain season, or even for a certain mood. For something exterior to validate and motivate our internal wishes and desires. Oh, how much time have we wasted waiting for the weekend. Or for money, love, inspiration, summer, a better life, a better exchange rate.
And how frustrated we’ve become with every second waiting and waiting and seeing nothing changes.
Nothing will change, however, with that mindset. Because time is our own commodity of our own making.
Pondering now on how January is almost at the ending and New Year’s Resolutions and wishful thinking started already to dull their light, and we find ourselves again at our old antics, again on the run, again restless, at war with ourselves. Or even worse, stuck, uninspired, unmoved, cold and lifeless. Feeling unworthy of goodness. Undeserving. Fake. Impostors. Not good enough. Simply not enough.
There is a reason for that. And it is simple. The time for resolutions, wishes upon a star, on the New Year’s fireworks, on a birthday cake, on a dandelion, on a shooting star (and so on) is over. All gone!
Some very wise men once said- The time is gone, the song is over. (check it out here). To paraphrase them I would say that the time is gone, the waiting is over!
That time is over.
It is done!
We’ve dreamt it. We’ve wished for it. We’ve longed for it. We’ve even prayed for it and manifested it. That is great, but enough.
Now it is the time to do it.
We should start with what we can. Changing that mind frame. Working on an idea, or a seed of an idea. With the first step- be it a word, a flower, a 5 minutes meditation, a 76-form Tai Chi routine, a sequence of Sun Salutation, 10 minutes walk, an apple, a healthy dinner, ironing 1 shirt, 6 cycles of deep breathing, calling 1 person, 10 min hike, writing 2 emails, texting back, throw away just 1 piece of junk, recycle 2 papers, plant a tree, say no to one plastic straw or even just by saying Hi to someone we’ve been meaning to get in touch with again.
Without pressure, without expectations, without analyzing (or overanalyzing- hey, I’m feeling your pain, my friend!), without beating yourself up, without guilt.
Start our first month of this blessed year with a word. Chosen wisely. And enwrap ourselves in it. Build around it, plant around it, dance around it. You get my point.
How can we make the most of this year by reporting all our actions around a word? By calling it a call to action. A hope. A dream. A wish…
Picking our theme for the year and then working towards that goal. With small steps, with big leaps of faith, with both.
As long as at the end of the year we will have something to “quantify” and measure our growth, we’re on the right path.
Food for thought and soul:
Do you feel restless (go to the thesaurus and pick any of the following: antsy, agitated, anxious, fidgety, UNPEACEFUL) or perhaps, au contraire… you are just stuck, uninspired, humdrum, indifferent, desolate, dulled, LIFELESS? Do you want to change that? Then pick your dream word. It can be a word, a phrase, a saying, a chapter, an entire book series if you want. Write it down. (disregard this step if it is an entire fantasy trilogy concerning hobbits or a seven book series with muggles in it)
Do you want more, something else, something different, anything at all? Even if it means to shake yourself a bit. (*the correct answer is YES!) Can you link it somehow to your dream word?
Thinking about what you want to achieve (you know what it is), what would be the first step?
Why aren’t you doing it? (*list your fears, worst-case-scenarios, insufficiencies, motivations or lack of them)
What would it take to convince you to do it? (*insert any type of bribe here- I suggest you think big! I mean, you’re only trying to convince yourself. So you have to be smart and creative and use all the arsenal you have. You know yourselves so it will be easy. I know bribing only goes this far, it is sometimes frowned upon, even considered the bane of our own existence, but- hey, I said no guilt, haven’t I?)
Breathe. Deep, for at least 6 cycles. Repeat if necessary.
Ignoring, or in spite of step # 3, take step #2+ step #4 and START.
Keep going. Until you’re done. Or moved. Or calmer. Or happier. Then, on to the next step. It may (or may not) get easier with every step.
Optional -tell your friends about it. You can start with me. Afterall we’re a part of a small tribe, right? We’re building here a small village fit for a tribe of awesomeness.
Sending my love out there to you, darlings.
Until next time, let’s keep in touch!
Post Scriptum: For those counting words, I confirm my essay has now 1000 words as WordPress knows to count.